Have you ever simply LOVED a song so much… only to see the artist who performed it fade away into obscurity? That happens more often than you might think.

We call such artists “one-hit wonders” because they are mainly known for achieving only a single success. Although the term can be used in many situations, it is mainly used to describe musicians who have only one hit song.

Sometimes artists become one-hit wonders because they create a song that becomes a hit due to a particular fad. For example, Rick Dees had a hit — his only one — with his song “Disco Duck,” which capitalized on the disco craze during the 1970s.

At other times, one-hit wonders may just be the result of bad timing. For example, a musician named The Big Bopper had his career tragically cut short when he died in a fatal plane crash. At other times, the sudden success of a big hit has led to a band breaking up immediately after they’ve hit it big.

More often, though, one-hit wonders are serious musicians who simply struggle to maintain their success after an initial hit. If you follow popular music over several decades, you will see that tastes change and very few acts are able to maintain a high level of popularity over time.

Although the term “one-hit wonder” is sometimes used in a negative way, the hits themselves often remain popular and stand the test of time. Because they are sometimes linked to fads or particular time periods, they often are associated with good memories from the past.

So can you still be a one-hit wonder if you have more than one hit? As it turns out, there are some artists who may have a couple of hits, but they are still considered a one-hit wonder because their biggest hit overshadows the rest of their career.

In fact, you can even be a one-hit wonder in one country and be a big star in another. For example, artists like Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Right Said Fred and The Verve are considered one-hit wonders in the United States, but they have many hits in their native countries.

 

16 Join the Discussion

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    • Hi, Zaid! We think it’s GREAT that you learned something new from this Wonder of the Day®! Thanks for leaving us another cool comment! :-)

  1. I enjoyed the video. I learned that a one-hit-wonder is when a person writes a great song and they don’t have any other hits. Thank you for the cool wonder!

    • We’re so happy to hear that you learned something new from this Wonder of the Day®, Lilly! Thank you for your super nice comment! :-)

  2. Hey, great songs. I like the cat walk on, it’s funny. Before I read this, I had no clue what a one hit wonder was, but now I know.

    thank you

    • We’re super glad this Wonder of the Day® was a “HIT” with you, Sarah! Thanks for letting us know you stopped by Wonderopolis and learned something new today! :-)

  3. I knew what a One Hit Wonder is, (because I love music), but I just wanted to see how Wonderopolis described it because they explain things sooooooooooooo well! :)

    -13

    • We’re glad you had some background knowledge about one hit wonders before you explored this Wonder of the Day® about them, 13! We hope you learned some new things, too! :-)

    • That tune makes us want to dance, how about you, Berkleigh? We loved learning about one-hit wonders with you today– especially since we often hear them over and over again! Perhaps you and your siblings can listen to the clip and try to guess all the songs! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a one-hit wonder?
  • Why do some artists have only one hit?
  • Can you be a one-hit wonder in one country and a big star in another?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to experience some blasts from the past? That’s right. It’s time to experience some one-hit wonders for yourself.

Make sure you grab someone older to join you. They might be able to provide some insight into songs they remember from their younger years.

You can listen to song samples of the Top 100 One-Hit Wonders as rated by the users of One Hit Wonder Central. Are you familiar with any of the songs? Why do you think these artists only had one hit?

What about your favorite songs playing on the radio right now? Are any of these songs by new artists?

Do you think any of them may turn out to be one-hit wonders? Why or why not?

 

Still Wondering

Explore EDSITEment’s Music from Across America lesson to listen to a variety of popular, traditional and ethnic American music, from Native American drumming to zydeco music from Louisiana.

 

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